Messy battle awaits as Jacob Zuma returns to court
Durban - The corruption trial of former president Jacob Zuma returns to the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday, but his lawyers and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) are playing their cards close to their chest regarding what is likely to happen when the hearing gets under way.
Zuma is facing corruption, money laundering and racketeering charges that emanate from his alleged corrupt role in the multi-billion rand arms deal of the late 1990s.
The State alleges that Thales, a French arms company which is the second accused in the trial, paid millions to Zuma in bribes and the money was channelled via companies owned by Durban businessman and convict, Schabir Shaik.
When asked about their game plan and whether they are ready to proceed with the trial, Natasha Kara, the KwaZulu-Natal NPA spokesperson, said they were not willing to comment.
“The matter is in court this week and you are urged to follow the proceedings there,” Kara said.
Equally, Zuma’s lawyer advocate Eric Mabuza, SC, said they were not ready to reveal their defence strategies until they appear before the court, adding that court cases always come with surprises.
While both parties appear to be determined not to play to the public gallery, their court papers indicate that it's going to be a messy battle.
The NPA is expected to use the sitting to ask the court to grant it a postponement to next year. The NPA wants to amend the charge sheet after discovering that KPMG, which was the previous forensic investigator in the matter, had omitted some payments made to Zuma by Shaik and the Nkobi group.
The NPA also wants the Covid-19 lockdown to end so that it can easily move around the 207 State witnesses it has lined up.
The application for the postponement has irked Zuma's lawyers and his supporters.
In papers filed on Friday in response to the application, Zuma’s lawyers labelled the application as “defective” and meant to cover the NPA’s shortcomings. Zuma, who is 78, is also arguing that age is not on his side and that the matter must be heard this year.
But before proceedings start today, Zuma will have to explain to the court why he did not show up on February 4 when Judge Dhaya Pillay, after a request from the NPA, had to issue a stayed warrant of arrest.
His previous lawyer, advocate Dan Mantsha, presented a sick note to show that Zuma was sick and receiving medical treatment abroad. The note was rejected by the court.